Alaska joins states seeking to block trial of young climate activists
The administration of Republican Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has joined a group of 17 states trying to defeat a lawsuit brought by young climate activists.
The motion to intervene, brought by Attorney General Treg Taylor, comes in a case called Juliana v. United States.
The 21 plaintiffs in the case, who filed their lawsuit in Oregon, allege that the federal government’s promotion of fossil fuels and the lack of policies to reduce them violates their constitutional rights. And they called on the courts to demand that the federal government draft plans to phase out carbon emissions.
A divided The federal appeal board ruled last year that the activists presented convincing arguments, but that they had to be presented to elected officials rather than the courts.
Complainants and the Federal Government fight now on whether the case should be closed or allowed to continue on a more limited basis. Instead of asking the courts to force the federal government to draft an emissions reduction plan, activists are now asking for a simple declaration of their constitutional rights, said Andrew Welle, one of their lawyers.
A spokeswoman for Taylor, Grace Lee, would not directly describe the attorney general’s position on carbon emissions. But she said in an email that Alaska’s involvement in the case was about how Congress and the state legislatures were the right way to deal with this policy issue – not the courts.
“This is why we have a democracy where we elect our representatives, who then grapple with these difficult issues where you have to balance economic prosperity, responsible resource development and the impacts of climate change,” Lee said.
Welle was skeptical of Alaska’s separation of powers argument, noting that states in their file made multiple references to the likelihood that the litigation could alter the federal government’s energy policy.
“It’s pretty clear from state newspapers that it’s not about saying, ‘Let the states handle this,'” Welle said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s about them protecting their continued promotion of fossil fuels and opposing any movement on these issues.”
Of the 16 states that have joined Alaska on the case, all but one are run by Republican governors, and many – like North Dakota, Texas and Louisiana – depend on the oil and gas industry. They argue that upcoming court-ordered negotiations between activists and the Biden administration could lead to a settlement that transforms the country’s energy system and violates principles such as the separation of powers.
Dunleavy, the chief attorney general, promoted Alaska’s oil industry and also disbanded a state panel tasked with setting state climate policy shortly after taking office.
Related: Alaska GOP Governor Dunleavy Dissolves State Climate Response Team
Welle said that states’ participation in the lawsuit is aimed at protecting their interests in fossil fuels and blocking movement on greenhouse gas regulation.
“If you look at the states involved in this litigation, none of them are making progress on the climate,” he said. “They are moving in the opposite direction and continue to add fuel to the fire.”
Welle is also involved in a similar affair that has been quietly unfolding in Alaska for the past several years.
In 2017, a group of young Alaskans sued the state and asked the courts to order the government to develop a plan to reduce Alaska’s emissions. A trial judge dismissed the case a year later, but the case was appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Welle says his team has been waiting for more than a year and a half for a decision from the Alaska Supreme Court on whether the case can proceed in lower court – a time he called “extremely frustrating.” ”In view of the complainants’ argument. that “we are in a climate emergency now”.
A spokeswoman for the state’s judicial system, Mara Rabinowitz, noted that the Alaska Supreme Court justices requested additional written documents after the pleadings, which lasted an additional six months.
“The tribunal is carefully considering the important issues raised in the appeal,” she said.